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Irish Convention gathers in Cork
Members of the Convention aboard the 'Iniscarra' during their visit to Cork Photo: Irish Life, 5 Oct 1917. Full collection available at the National Library of Ireland

Irish Convention gathers in Cork

Cork, 26 September 1917 - The 20th sitting of the Irish Convention – and the first to be held outside Dublin – has met in Cork.

As well as conducting its business, the members of the Convention are being treated to local entertainment and to a showcasing of local industrial developments. Special attention is being paid to Cork harbour which, the Cork Examiner believes, will impress the northern members.

The newspaper editorialised:

‘They will realise that such developments will be of real service to Ulster, that the Northern farmer will be ready to appreciate and to utilise the Ford Tractor, and that Cork shipyards will offer increased employment to Ulster shipwrights and designers. In these matters the interests of north and south are identical; are they not identical also in all those matters that go to make up the sum total of our national life?’

Some of the convention delegates in Cork. Clockwise from top left: Dr Kelly (the Bishop of Ross) and the Right Rev. Dr Bernard; Sir Francis Hopwood, Sir Horace Plunkett, Sir Bertram Windle and Lord McDonnell; Mr Powell, Mr A. Jameson and the Earl of Mayo; the Lord Mayor of Cork greeting John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party (Image: Irish Life, 5 Oct 1917. Full collection available at the National Library of Ireland)

Sir Horace Plunkett, Chairman of the Convention, confirmed that the main reason Cork was chosen to host a sitting was to give northern delegates an opportunity to see the south of the country. It was as important, he felt, for them to understand the peoples of the agricultural parts of the island, as it was for those in the south to appreciate the achievements of industry and commerce in the north-east corner. He made these statements at a luncheon in the city’s Imperial Hotel, hosted by the Cork Harbour Board.

Mr Plunkett spoke of his optimism for the process in which they were all engaged and defended the secrecy that surrounded some of their deliberations. He claimed that this was the first time in over 100 years that all the parties of Ireland were coming together to consider how the country may be improved. For that to work, absolute frankness was necessary. ‘Just imagine’, he stated ‘if their deliberations were made public! Over and over again men, anxious to come to an agreement withheld views they did not command the majority of opinion, and expressed views with the object of hearing them answered.’

‘They expressed themselves quite willing to change their opinions, if only they could be convinced they were in error... If this process of expressing unpopular opnions in the hope of being able to revise them were made public all he could say was that the process would be stayed and the opinions would not be expressed.’

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.